André Breton

1899 – 1966
French School

The Stroke of Midnight (Minuit Juste), (Poem Object,1959)

Directly carved wood, garter belt.
Height: 84cm. Diameter 10,5 cm

Provenance: André Breton Sale, Calmels and Cohen, Paris, April 2003. number 4135.

Exhibitions:
1. Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany «Surreale Dinge». February 10 – May 29 2011. (full page color reproduction. Page 112.)
2. Mjellby Konstmuseum, Halmstad, Sweden «Surrealistika Ting» June 1 – October 17 2012.

Breton’s Minuit Juste was his contribution to the last great Surrealist Exhibition given at the Daniel Cordier Gallery in 1959. The theme chosen, EROS was imbedded in the description of the event: E xposition InteRnatiOnale du Surréalism, and the participants included the luminaries of the Surrealist movement, among others: Marcel Duchamp (who produced the catalogue, in the form of a letterbox containing nine lascivious messages and erotic potholders), Hans Bellmer, Man Ray, Jean Arp, Benjamin Péret, Mirò, Toyen, and Svanberg. Duchamp’s motto read as follows: “Everything is pulsating in the conjugation exercise because of an affliction which is more venereal than venerable.”

Photos of the exhibition installation reveal an interior which was meant to evoke an enormous vagina, and the opening night buffet organised by Meret Oppenheim presented a banquet table on which a naked female mannequin was dissected with food inserted into its entrails.

Understandably, Breton was obliged to supply an erotic image of quality and some consequence to this singular event. His sculpture, characteristic of his natural elegance, is a stylised phallus (as one might find in the primitive African cultures which he so admired). A woman’s garter belt, modest in dimensions in comparison to the male organ, is ‘crucified’ on it, attached by small nails.

A sketch for Minuit Juste was published in the book edited by Gallimard, 1991: André Breton, Je vois, je m’imagine, also offered at the Breton sale. The sketch shows a different placement for the garter belt, and indicates a frame with a series of small portraits (presumably female conquests) in a circle. The sculpture was perhaps never realised exactly in this manner, if Breton ultimately decided to dispense with the narrative and limiting device of a frame with female portraits, judging that a phallus, a garter belt and the suggestive title were more than sufficient to deliver his message.

A 19